Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lucky Sevens

Whenever I am in Maine, most often during the holidays, Mom and I love to go antique shopping. She's collected antiques longer than I've been alive and has a real knack for it. Her favorite things are white ironstone and demitasse-size sterling souvenir spoons. She also has a good feel for quilts. I may have had something to do with that.

Last month when I was in Maine, Mom and I went to the Cabot Mill to look at antiques. The mill has a large, group co-op with many sellers, and there is always something interesting to be found. We saw a taxidermy trophy squirrel with front and back ends mounted on separate wooden plaques, but left that item behind.

There was a handsome Fans quilt, toward the back draped over a partition of some sort. Mostly wools, the quilt appeared to be from the early part of the 20th century. It had good colors, nice decorative feather stitching, and was in good condition. It wasn't the $25 bargain we all hope for, but it was reasonable, affordable. We thought about it, left, and came back half an hour later to get it. I'm glad we did. It's a nice one!

The quilt is 73 inches square. It has seven rows of seven blocks, each with seven patches of colorful fabric making the fan shape. All those sevens, I think I'll call it Lucky Sevens! There are several really nice wool quilts in my collection, and this one fits in well with the group.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kalakoa: Dressed for Success

Vintage dress made by Kiyomi of Hawaii
In pre-contact Hawaii, garments were made out of a material called Kapa. Native Hawaiians created the material with bast fibers, or the inner bark of certain trees; using wood mallets to beat the bark into sheets of thin fabric after soaking it in water. Before contact, women would wear kapa wraps from the waist down and sometimes over the shoulders, but from the waist up they were often unclothed. Men wore kapa loincloths.    

Vintage dress made by Liberty of Hawaii, gift of Madge Ziegler
During the early 1800s, fabrics such as silk and cotton began to arrive in Hawaii through the trade ships and the whaling industry. Around the 1820s and 1830s, New England missionaries arrived, introducing garment making to the islands, both dressmaking and tailoring. Loose fitting dresses called "Mother Hubbards" were modified to fit larger frames, and as the style evolved, a dress-like undergarment called a muumuu eventually became an outer garment. Today a muumuu is considered to be a loose fitting dress that hangs from the shoulders, often made of bright, floral fabric or Polynesian prints.

Vintage muumuu made by Kiyomi of Hawaii
The wave of tourism following World War II fueled the industry producing muumuus. Iolani Sportswear, established in 1953, had its own women's line developed by Kiyomi Hirose, called Kiyomi of Hawaii. Two vintage pieces from Kiyomi of Hawaii are among the garments in "Kalakoa, Discovering the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" now on display at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon.

The inclusion of the garments is a link to the garment industry, which produced the scraps found in the quilts. "Kalakoa, Discovering the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" will be up through February. Latimer Quilt & Textile Center is located at 2105 Wilson River Loop in Tillamook, Oregon. If you are planning to visit, please make sure to inquire ahead of time about their winter hours. For more information, call 503-842-8622 or visit their website.

Mod Satin Quilt Top, c. 1960, Iowa

This mod satin quilt top came from an eBay seller in Marshalltown, Iowa. It is 80" x 80", all satin in rich, solid colors, and it is edge finished with a binding but not backed. According to the seller, it came from an estate sale of a couple, and it was handed down to the wife on her wedding day. The couple was married for more than 50 years. There was no other information available. I love the shimmering fabrics, the bright colors, and the simple, modern design. Maybe I should hang it on the wall.

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Kalakoa, In Search of the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" in Blanket Statements

It is not easy to jump back and forth between journalism and academic writing. They are almost like two different languages; one we see everyday in the news, and another we may not see as often, when looking at research. I got some practice with academic writing recently, publishing a research article in the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) newsletter, Blanket Statements.

The article is called "Kalakoa, In Search of the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" and it is my second article for AQSG. My first, "Collecting Polyester Quilts" appeared last year. The newsletter is available to members of AQSG. It is one of the primary member benefits, along with the annual "Uncoverings" journal featuring research papers.

It took some convincing to get me to write an academic article. Mary Juillet-Paonessa of CT Quilt Works, then Editor of Blanket Statements, was most encouraging with the first article on polyester. She asked me to do it. Mary was putting a muslin backing on my tile block quilt top from Louisiana. It piqued her interest, and I think my collecting activity caught her attention.

Mary guided me through the process of academic writing, and while we were working on the article, she began to transition duties to Jill Wilson, who is now editor. It is always a delight to work with Mary and Jill.

Both of the articles represent new research, which is partly how the newsletter serves the membership-- by publishing new research or research in progress. I am happy to contribute, and it is an honor to appear on the front page with a lead article again. Thank you, AQSG, and special thanks to Mary and Jill, for their encouragement and guidance.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday: 2013, The First Book Deal

"New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" - click here for info

In the summer of 2013, I was getting ready for an exhibition of quilts from my collection at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles when I received a message from Jane Lury, a New York quilt dealer who had recently sold me a Capper's Weekly Springtime in the Rockies quilt. She had friends from France who would be in Portland for Quilt Market, and they had a magazine. Her friends liked visiting homes with quilts to feature in the magazine. I had not heard of the magazine before.

As much as I appreciated the offer, I declined. The year before, there was a big feature article in Quilters Newsletter. That article was how San Jose found me. "Do I need more press?" I asked myself. "Not really," was the answer. Also, the house was a complete mess. That was my real excuse. I did not want a camera crew coming in when there were quilts piled up all over the place. In getting ready for the exhibition, it looked like a hoarder's house. "Maybe they can come the next time they're in town," I said in my reply.

They were persistent, and did not seem to want to take no for an answer. "Could we come at the end of the week?" they asked. In the meantime, I was asking friends on Facebook if they'd ever heard of the magazine before. It was called Quiltmania.

My friends urged me to let them come, so eventually I agreed to a visit. Three people from Quiltmania came to my home in the afternoon on Sunday, May 19th; Carol Veillon, Christelle Leveque and Guy Yoyotte-Husson. We looked at a lot of quilts together. Carol and Christelle took notes, and Guy took photos. I was very impressed with all of them; they were professional, fun and knew exactly what they wanted, especially Carol. That is why she is so successful.

The article appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of the magazine, but that was not the only thing we planned the day of the visit. I would write a coffee table book about my collection of New York Beauty quilts and have an exhibition of 50 quilts at the 2015 Pour l'Amour du Fil in Nantes. Book copy was due in September, 2014.

no, not good enough!
About five months before my deadline, I received a note asking if I would do all the photography for the book. I would receive extra compensation, and it would resolve the dilemma of having to ship quilts so far in advance of the Pour l'Amour du Fil. I agreed to do the photos, thinking I'd already done the work, but when I looked at the photos I had, they were not good enough.

much, much better!
Around the same time, I photographed a quilt in my loft during the late hours of the afternoon, when sun was pouring in through the front window and bouncing off the wall toward the loft wall, with more light from a skylight above. When I looked at the photos, and realized how much better they were with almost perfectly balanced light revealing quilting detail in the full view, I started rephotographing all 70 quilts.

It took a whole month, including photo editing. which really took most of the time. The best light for shooting was only available for an hour or two each day. The remaining time was spent editing. During this period, which included an additional month writing, I barely left the house. The Washington County Museum was having a lecture series and quilt exhibition, so I would go once a week to hear the lectures. Other than that, I only left the house for food.

The following month, June, I wrote all the descriptions of the quilts. All of those, and all the photos, were delivered two months early. I sent in the foreword, written by Shelly Zegart, and my introduction a bit later, closer to the deadline. When I wrote the descriptions, it was important to make sure everything I said was the truth. I made no assumptions about quilts made by unknown makers. This approach eliminated romanticism. The people who enjoy that kind of thing were left to find it elsewhere, but that did not weigh on me. It was more like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

At some point in the process, I received a note from Quiltmania, asking if they could use an image of one of the quilts on a bag. They would give be a bunch of bags in return, so I said yes. I didn't give it much thought until I was in Nantes and saw people carrying the bags around at Pour l'Amour du Fil.

The book was beautiful. Quiltmania does a superb job with its publications. The books are well designed, well printed and a pleasure to read. My book was over 300 pages, hardcover with partial sleeve, and bilingual. I think for the rest of my life, when people mention the book I will say, "My first book!" and will always feel a sense of disbelief that my first book was that book.

Mom and I traveled to France together in April for the Pour l'Amour du Fil. My sister, Libby, could not make it. She will soon have a hip replacement. We missed her, but spent time with my longtime high school friend, David Nemitz, and his wife Ninette in Paris. They could not make it to Nantes, but we were in the same hotel as other exhibitors. Kaye England was one of them. Mom and Kaye really hit it off. I love Kaye and was so happy to get to know her.

The event was magnificent. Carol Veillon and her staff put on a fabulous event. One of the most interesting things I learned was there were not as many fabric and notions shops throughout Europe, so people relied on events like the Pour l'Amour du Fil to stock up for the year. The vendor area was a madhouse! I stayed by my exhibit, signing books and greeting the people who came by. I tried my best to speak French, with varying degrees of success.

When I returned home, it seemed like a dream. It was hard to believe what just happened. I even posted a message on Facebook, "Wow, that really happened!"

So, that is the story of my first book, the first book deal, and where it took me. There was a little luck, but as the saying goes, "luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

When you come out of nowhere the way I did, people sometimes think all kinds of strange things. That's OK. They can do that. I'll do this. To buy the book, click here. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Working Together

One of my quilts, "Fruity Beauty" will be in the "No Girls Allowed!" biennial juried exhibition of men who quilt at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado. After participating in the 2014 show, I wanted to return. Later this year, I will exhibit quilts at the museum.

The show title, "No Girls Allowed" stirred up controversy among bloggers and commenters who were looking at the men's show and our presence in the community from a feminist point of view. I felt there were some good points and some not-so-good ones throughout the conversation. The title was really meant to be tongue-in-cheek; the rules allow any person, male or female, to long-arm the quilts in the show. I'm thankful for that. Since I have very little sewing experience, my quilts would not otherwise be possible. Also, compared to the industry I was part of previously, the quilt industry is a shining example of leadership and accomplishment among women. That's a big part of what I love about it.

at Modern Domestic PDX
Jolene Knight of Good Knight Quilts did the quilting for "Fruity Beauty" and she did a spectacular job. I pieced the top while learning basic sewing from Michelle Freedman at Modern Domestic. We worked together beautifully, and today I cannot look at the quilt or speak about it without letting everyone know about Michelle and Jolene's roles. I adore them, and when I got in the show, they also got in with me!

Jolene and I have worked together on other projects. One of those was "Oregon July" - my first large quilt, and award winner at the 2015 Northwest Quilters Show. The reversible quilt is about my love affair with Oregon. On the front is large, improvisational patchwork in Oregon summer colors. The back is solid green, revealing the quilted landscape drawing with Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake.

Jolene is from Oregon, so she understood what I was after. When I asked if she could free motion quilt a landscape over the entire quilt, it was very much outside her box as a relatively new long-armer. My belief in her never wavered. Working together on the quilt elevated us both as artists. We were not sure how it would work, or if it would work, but we took that leap of faith together.

When the quilt received a ribbon in the Long Arm Hand Guided Quilting category at the Northwest Quilters show, there was only one thing left to do. I presented Jolene with the ribbon in front of everyone at the meeting of our other guild, Portland Modern Quilt Guild. The thought of keeping it never occurred to me.

My quilt, Jolene's ribbon!
I was so happy, proud, and felt greatly rewarded for being a small part of Jolene's quilt journey. It was the first time she'd ever won a ribbon in a quilt show, and I got to hand her the ribbon! For me, that was so much better than winning a ribbon.

at Pour l'Amour du Fil, Nantes, France, April 2015
"Fruity Beauty" is a 21st century, digital-age, postmodern New York Beauty, my small contribution to the history of the motif, made with Spoonflower fabrics I designed. It was part of my exhibition of New York Beauty quilts at the 2015 Pour l'Amour du Fil in Nantes, France.

The "No Girls Allowed!" exhibit will be on display at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado, January 29th through April 26, 2016. Selected artists are: John Scott Alden, Robert Bosscher, Steve Bowley, Arlen Brown, Jim Smith and Andy Brunhammer, Ken Casey, David Charity, Rod Daniel, Jeff Donaldson, Jack Edson, Andre Emmel, Davin Frey, Geoff Hamada, John Hermann, Cuauhtémoc Kish, Timothy Latimer, Matt Macomber, Michael Michalski, Giles Panting, John Plutchak, Leo Ransom, Kevin Stankewicz, Bill Stearman, David Taylor, Ricky Tims, David Turner, Jim Vander Noot, J. Marcus Weekley, Kevin Womack, Kenn Yazzie and myself. For more information, please visit the museum's web site.

My Top Ten

Which quilt is my all-time favorite? To find out, keep reading!
The first quilt book I owned was "American Quilt Collections: Antique Quilt Masterpieces" by Shelly Zegart. In the book, collections are showcased and each one is represented with a single quilt. Sometimes I daydream about what I would do if I had to choose only one quilt to represent my whole collection, just like in Shelly's book. Which one would it be? Here's my Top Ten.

Cinco de Mayo, 2008, Buda Bee Quilters, Buda, Texas
10) Cinco de Mayo, a Karen Stone design made by the Buda Bee quilters in Texas, is the quintessential 21st century New York Beauty. Collecting 21st century quilts never would've occurred to me had I not realized I was on to something when collecting New York Beauties. The 21st century examples were part of the history of the New York Beauty motif, and the collection would have been incomplete without them.

Diamonds, silks, unknown maker, Pennsylvania, c. 1890
9) Diamonds are a guy's best friend, too. Originally, I bought this quilt to hang on the wall of my office. It was perfect for the decor. Whenever my mind wandered, I would catch myself staring at the quilt, trying to figure out what would inspire someone to make such an elaborate decorative piece. It is all silk, in wonderful condition, and includes thousands of small diamonds and decorative feather stitching in multiple colors surrounding each diamond. Even the black rows between the diamond blocks are pieced and outlined. It's amazing.

Album with Rooster, Hannah J. Swin, NJ, 1868
8) The rooster is a symbol of pride, honesty and courage. Do I really need any other reason to love this quilt? OK, here's another reason. It's originally from New Jersey. Hannah J. Swin of Bergen County, New Jersey made the charming two-layer appliqué bedcover in 1868. It is dated, initialed and inscribed with her name. An additional inscription, the word "Hark!" appears next to the rooster's beak. Embroidered details, such as the seeds on the strawberries, make it an especially charming piece. 

Fans, velvets, unknown maker, New York, c. 1920
7) I love unique things. Curiosities, I call them, and this quilt is a great curiosity. So many questions...where to begin? It is a one-of-a-kind original, made of velvet, and it uses the familiar fan motif in a singular way. This art deco, medallion-style masterpiece also displays a very original use of color, with red, gold, pink, purple and turquoise working together harmoniously. If it seems familiar, that may be because it was on the cover of the first edition of "American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780-2007" by Robert Shaw.

blue resist, cotton / linen, unknown maker c. 1760, Eastern US
6) I love old things, very old things. This blue resist is as old as it gets, if we're talking about quilts in America. It was made in the Revolutionary war period, with fabrics thought to have been made in England using a process similar to batik. Woodcut blocks were used to apply the resist paste on the fabric, resisting the dye when dried, allowing all the exposed, raw fiber to absorb dye. There are very few examples of this type of quilt known to exist, and most are in museums. This one happens to be in very good condition, and it has an applied binding in a second resist print. It is included in Kay and Lori Lee Triplett's new book

Pictorial with Flag, cottons, unknown maker, c. 1930, Ohio
5) Originality is one of my favorite things about American quiltmaking tradition, and this 1930s pictorial quilt from Ohio is original as it gets. The most striking thing about it, in my opinion, is how unusual it was to make a one-of-a-kind, original pictorial quilt design in the period. In the Depression Era, a lot of similar looking quilts were made; thousands of Double Wedding Ring, Grandmother's Flower Garden, Dresden Plate and Sunbonnet Sue quilts. Formerly part of Shelly Zegart's collection, this quilt stands out because it was so far outside the box and ahead of its time. 

Crazy Block, mixed fabrics, unknown maker, c. 1970, Hawaii
4) This remarkable 1970s Hawaiian scrap quilt is the one that led me down the rabbit hole. Early in 2015, I saw a listing for the quilt on eBay, and it came with a story about groups of women in Hawaii who would get together and make scrap quilts. At the time I already owned another quilt made in the tradition, and that quilt happened to be one that launched my whole 1970s collection. For many years I wished for a great Hawaiian quilt. Be careful what you wish for! 

Album with Lyre, cottons, Mary Couchman Small, West Virginia, c. 1850
3) Some quilts are undeniable masterpieces, and this album quilt from 1850 is one of those. Mary Couchman Small of Martinsburg, West Virginia made it, and two other almost-identical quilts have been discovered. The handwork is very fine, and includes dense quilting in the white areas but almost no quilting in the appliqué. One of the related quilts appears in "West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers: Echoes from the Hills" by Fawn Valentine. When I acquired this quilt from Shelly Zegart, it was a serious purchase on the occasion of my 40th birthday. At the time, I promised myself I would one day do something more with my collection.

pieced quilt, cottons, unknown maker, Kentucky, c. 1865
2) You know you've made it in the quilt world when one of your quilts is featured on an event bag. To be honest, I didn't really know that until Kaye England said something to that effect when she saw my Quiltmania Pour l'Amour du Fil bag in Nantes. The quilt on the bag is one of my all-time favorites. It's one that's hung for long periods in my home. It was one of the first quilts in my "New York Beauty" collection, and traveled to New York after 9/11 to hang in the Heritage of Genius exhibitions. This quilt and the Cinco de Mayo are included in my book, "New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" (2015, Quiltmania, France)

Economy Block, wools, unknown maker, c. 1810, New England
1) If I had to select just one quilt to represent my whole collection, it would be this one. I have slept under this quilt, and I'm convinced there is something magical about it. The quilt seems to know precisely how much warmth to give, and when to breathe. It is warm in the winter, but never too warm in summer. The Economy Block quilt is wool with an overshot coverlet back and applied, hand-loomed twill tape binding in red and green. The warp and weft of the top fabric are separate colors such as blue and brown, and the home-dyed wools display a subtle variation in tone, adding richness to the earthy palette. The design is well balanced, and the quilt is elegant. To make a quilt like this in the early 1800s, a lot of resources were required, and many hands both indoors and out. It is a rare and outstanding example of an early American pieced quilt, an object of great significance.

So, that's my Top Ten. It could be different in an hour, even though I thought about it for a while. Just so you know, I excluded the quilts from my Ten Most Amazing Discoveries blog, and any of those could have also made the list. What do you think? Are you surprised? Did I miss any of your favorite quilts? Please leave a comment!